Tuesday, November 8, 2011

D.C. – Day 1 11.8.11

Today’s itinerary: White House, Library of Congress, Capitol, & National Archives.

This morning started EARLY!! Our first tour was at the White House at 8:30. I had contacted my Senator’s office 3 months earlier requesting a tour of several buildings in the area and the White House tour was one that was approved. The bad thing about the White House tour is that there is absolutely no cameras allowed. Zip, zero, zilch. You can’t bring in a backpack, any personal items, nothing. And because of 9-11, all of the lockers around town have been removed except for at the Amtrack Station at Union Station. So first thing this morning we were up & showered, drove to the Metro station & hopped on the Metro to Union Station. Once there, we located the Amtrack luggage counter and paid for 2 hours to store our backpack with a book, maps, & my camera inside. The total? $8!! Michael calls it highway robbery but it is what it is and that’s the only place to store items. It’s much less hassle than leaving everything at the campground and then going back to retrieve it.

We mistakenly stopped at the White House Information Building where we went through a screening and I had to be wanded because of something I was wearing kept beeping. We wandered around and checked out the place before going back outside to find where we were supposed to be in the first place.

The White House tour was a self-guided tour and knowledgeable Secret Service men & women were stationed in every room to both answer questions and protect the items in the room. The best part of the tour was all of the photos lining the wall. The rooms were opened but you were only allowed to look through the doorway, not go inside the rooms. We saw the Vermeil Room & the China Room, then headed upstairs to see the East Room, Green Room, Blue Room, Red Room, State Dining Room, and the entrance/exit. It was cool, not quite what we expected, but cool. The gardens were incredible! To get up to the White House we passed through no less than 4 checkpoints, each time requiring us to show ID and one metal detector where I had to be wanded, again. The tour itself took about 45 minutes or so and we left and jumped back on the Metro back to Union Station to retrieve our bag & camera. Fun!

It was a gorgeous day – cool but clear. Our next stop after the White House was at the National Archives where we saw the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, & the Bill of Rights. Again, no pictures allowed (a common theme, we learned) and we were required to go through yet another metal detector which I had to be wanded – again. It was fascinating. Not only to see the original documents, but the building itself. And the exibits. The exibit they were showing was about how the government’s view on how we should eat has changed through the years. It was pretty fascinating how the food pyramid has changed, and how they influence what kind of foods we eat.

The National Archives building

We looked at the clock and realized that there was a tour starting at the Library of Congress in 30 minutes so we decided to hoof it over there. The one cool thing about D.C. is there is amazing architecture and memorials everywhere you look! We made a quick stop at the Navy Memorial, just around the corner from the National Archives to see the Lone Sailor….

The lone sailor in the Navy Memorial

And checked out the world map and pointed out where we would rather be…

Michael pointing to Mazatlan

And then the Capitol came into view….

The U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.

And then we hoofed it up to the Library of Congress. If you haven’t been, it’s located on Capitol Hill and we found out why it’s called that! The hill just keeps on climbing….and climbing….and climbing! We made it to the information center just on time and had to run to catch up with the group beginning the tour. That’s gonna hurt! Haha…

The Library of Congress is absolutely stunning. Made entirely out of marble and with no space left blank, it is difficult to see it all! And the pictures just don’t do it justice. Our tour guide took us all throughout the Library and pointed out as much as possible in our 45 minute tour would allow. We saw Jefferson’s Library, the one he donated to the Library in 1815 after a fire destroyed the Library the year before, gorgeous carvings, & murals, stone work, stained glass, it was simply amazing.

The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress

By the time we finished the tour we were both ready for lunch and had another tour scheduled for 2:00 so we headed outside & found a great eatery where we sat for the first time since early this morning (ahhhh….) and ate with a great view of the Library of Congress building.

The Library of Congress

Our next tour was the Capitol and we had sort of scoped out as we were booking by and had an idea where we were going. I checked the instructions I was given and realized that we could not bring a backpack and we needed to take it to the Senator’s office to begin our tour. I walked up to one of the guards and asked him where this was located and he said, “Oh, that’s just up the street three blocks!” Doh!! Haha…

So we hoofed it, again, up the street to the Hart Senate building and went through yet another security checkpoint where I had to be wanded again. I was getting pretty used to this, unfortunately. We finally found Senator Murkowski’s office and met our tour guide as well as two other couples who were also going to do the tour.

My contact at the Senator’s office was phenomenal in setting up the tours and I can’t thank him enough for all his hard work! Our tour guide was Jason who was originally from Homer, AK, who worked in the Senator’s office. He was great, very knowledgeable and personal and one of the other couples was from Homer too so they were chatting all about people and places there.

The Capitol building was another amazing place. Since we were on a ‘special’ tour we got to take the cute little tram from the Hart Senate building underground to the Capital building. We arrived in the Capitol Building and Jason pointed out all of the hotspots to us & toured us through both the Senate Chamber and the House of Representatives Chambers where the President gives the State of the Union speech (no pictures & separate security screenings where I was wanded….again!) Both were very impressive.

In addition, he toured us through the rotunda, showed us the famous ‘Whisper Spot’ and explained all of the paintings & statues throughout the Capitol.

Painting in the Capitol Building

Listening at the whisper spot

Lady Freedom in the Capitol

Fun! :-)

Finally, our 1st day was done, we gingerly walked back to the Metro as our feet were already starting to hurt and we gratefully sat for our trip back to Maryland. We had ‘planned’ to make it back to the campground by dark but because of Daylight Savings Time, it was pitch black by the time we found the van and we were exhausted so we found the closest restaurant possible and crashed.

More to follow…


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